cover image The Steel Wave

The Steel Wave

Jeff Shaara, . . Ballantine, $28 (493pp) ISBN 978-0-345-46142-1

This keystone of the bestselling WWII trilogy dramatizes D-Day and ups the bar for military historicals, demonstrating that Shaara (The Rising Tide ) has hit full stride. The epic-scale novel opens on January 25, 1944, with British commandos gathering soil samples on Omaha Beach to assess landing sites. Shaara gives the Americans, called “the great waves of steel” by the Germans, their due portion in the grisly, brutal Allied invasion, and the experiences of the grunt soldiers—most notably the indefatigable U.S. Army Sgt. Jesse Adams—offers a field-level view of D-Day and afterward, generating more suspenseful reading than the matter-of-fact accounts of the big-brass dealings of Eisenhower and Churchill. The Allied leaders' personalities emerge with agile clarity, while German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel embodies “the good soldier” laboring under a delusional Hitler and German High Command ensconced in cozy Berlin. Rommel's ambivalent complicity in the assassination plot on Hitler is convincingly rendered and paves the way for the final act. The muscular prose, deft sense of military drama and relentless pacing are well suited for this crackerjack saga. (May)